The San Juan Islands: Into the 21st Century

Join us for a presentation by author JoAnn RoeJoAnn Roe

When: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Where: Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room 121 Prospect St.
Free and open to all

What’s it all about? The San Juan Islands

The 172 San Juan Islands of Washington State are the uppermost remains of a mountain range that once separated the fifty miles between Vancouver Island and mainland Washington. Its valleys today are saltwater channels and open waters that seamlessly melt into the Canadian Gulf Islands and the Inside Passage to Alaska. Some American Campforested mountains soar skyward to 2,409 feet with their bases plunging underwater to great depths. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany negotiated a boundary agreement between Britain and the United States in 1872, after a period called the “Pig War,” about which much has been written.

From a fifty-year resident’s viewpoint, The San Juan Islands: Into the 21st Century examines this remote yet oft-visited northwest corner of Washington State. The author tells of farming IMG_0010lavender rather than wheat and alpacas rather than cattle; of inter-island boats and barges that still fight stormy seas and riptide; of the development of reliable medical care only during the 1950s; of the emphasis today on sensible land management, the orca whales that are native to the area, and the former and current island people.

JoAnn Roe explores both the history and the present of this unique and alluring region. Roe traces the challenging task IMG_0023of bringing electrical power to the islands by Opalco, a possible “first.”


Spring Sale

We’re having a Garage Sale to benefit the Territorial Courthouse on Saturday April 6th, 2013 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.  Donate your gently used clothing, art, toys, books, and household items at our pre-sale drop off times this Saturday March 30th from 10am-1pm and April 4th and 5th from 4pm-7pm.  Bring an item to donate (or just donate!) and we’ll give you a quick tour of the restoration work.  See you there!

History Holiday

Annual History Holiday

Open Mike Sharing and Annual Membership Meeting1850 Christmas

Thursday, December 13, 2012, 7:30 p.m.

Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room • 121 Prospect St. • Free • All Welcome

Join us for a festive and informative evening of open mike sharing and holiday goodies! All are welcome (members and non-members alike) to sign up for a 5-minute slot during which you may share anything that relates to local or regional history – a personal story, research items, an artifact, or anything else that comes to mind. We will also be passing out forms to collect ideas for the upcoming trivia night at the Whatcom Museum and gather ideas for other Historical Society projects.

The line up so far

Already lined up for a spot at the mike is Janet Oakley, who will be sharing about “Two gals and a Guy at Gettysburg: Making history while painting picket fences.” In September, along with Edradine and Harald Hovde participated in the Friends of Gettysburg work-vacation. Oakley went to honor her great-grandfather who was a Union surgeon at the battle. Hovde went to bring the story of George E Pickett on Bellingham Bay to the national park there. Hard work and high times ensued.

Vaughn Sherman is also lined up. Sherman is the author of “Sea Travels: Memoirs of a Twentieth Century Master Mariner – The story of J. Holger Christensen as told to his nephew Vaughn Sherman.” Sea Travels tracks two generations of the Christensen family from Puget Sound’s pioneer days, to the Alaskan Gold Rush and onto the world’s open oceans. Their saga includes hard times and history ― taking President Truman salmon fishing on Puget Sound and La Blanca’s dynamite-fueled explosion on a Tacoma shore, one of the most dramatic Puget Sound maritime episodes to this day ― as well as the high jinx and heroism of rootless and restless men of the sea. 

Members who have a project they’d like to share,  sign up before the program. There’s still room.

We will also get a sneak preview of the Society’s newest books and members at $25 and above can pick up their copy of Journal Twelve, hot off the press. A very brief election of board members will precede the program. See you there!

One More Thing…

Oldest Brick Building in Washington State is Restored

Well, almost. The insides are lovely and the brick, drainage, roof, and windows done. We can’t wait to open it for events and other public happenings. Only we need one more thing: A wheelchair lift. Such a lift is essential for being approved by the city of Bellingham and final permitting.

The picture below is similar to what we have in mind, a lift that a disabled guest could enter and be lowered down to the main floor. (The building is kind of quirky. Built on a beach in 1858, the street was raised to its second floor around WW I.) One of the things we can’t change as it is a nationally registered historic place, is easy handicap access to this floor, where court was held. But the downstairs is where the jail was located and courtroom lobby and the lift would go to there.

Foundation in Place

The foundation for the lift is in place.  The concrete was poured several months ago, but our funding has been short. In order to finish the project we need to raise a minimum of $10,000. Without the lift, we can’t go forward with plans for interpreting early Bellingham history upstairs or holding public events.  The future also includes school tours.  We are applying for grants, but that will take a while.

Why Should You Care?

Bellingham is fortunate to have two rare structures that date from the 1850s Washington Territorial days –the Pickett House and the T.G. Richards. The Richards building was built during the Fraser River Gold Rush (1858), introducing Bellingham Bay  and infant Whatcom County to the center of 19th century West Coast enterprise, San Francisco. Known only for the coal in Bellingham Bay Coal Mine, the gold rush brought thousands to the bay. Though it was short-lived and many miners left discouraged, others stayed to homestead. During this time, Captain George E. Pickett of Gettysburg fame and James W. Forsyth of Wounded Knee massacre, both were frequent visitors while stationed at Fort Bellingham. Pickett’s house was just up the hill.

The T.G. Richards building became a territorial courthouse in 1863, hearing probate and other civil cases until 1889. It was a GAR meeting place, housed a pharmacy and printing press as well as contain a treasure room and jail. During the 20th century, a church and Akers Taxidermy occupied the building.

How You Can Help

From now until our open house August 25th, we hope to reach our goal. We know times are tough, but a donation of $10.00 or more to our restoration fund can really benefit the project.  If 1000 people donate just that amount, we can reach our goal. To participate, send money to:

Attn: Rick Tremaine

Whatcom County Historical Society Restoration Fund

PO Box 2116

Bellingham, WA 98227

Make checks out to: Whatcom County Historical Society.

Thanks so much!! Be sure to join August 25th to celebrate.

Traffic Jam on Bellingham Bay 1858

Talk: Thursday March 8

Time: 7:30

Where: Old City Hall

One of the Most Exciting of Times

The summer of 1858 on Bellingham Bay was one of the most exciting times as the population on the bay swelled to several thousand. The Frazer Gold Rush was on. Sometimes, rivals, the settlement of  Sehome was platted and sold lots at $200.00 a piece. Whatcom sought to get a dock out beyond its muddy flats.  Ships and steamers dropped miners off a couple of hundred at a time.  It was a wild time. The forests around the bay were so thick that “a cat barely had room to squeeze through.”

Maritime History on Bellingham Bay

Historian Janet Oakley has been researching the Ann Parry, the bark that brought the bricks for the T.G. Richards building (Whatcom Territorial Courthouse) for the past six years and has made some exciting discoveries from reading the Shipping Intelligence in the Daily Alta California, the leading newspaper in not only San Francisco, but the state. But nothing has been as exciting as the year of 1858 when our community was put on the map.

Come join us for the talk.